The last few days have been pretty bewildering as an Arsenal fan. Arsenal had to travel to the depths of Mordor and fight the Uruk-hai in Mount Doom. Along the way Frodo lost the One Ring and Sauron’s forces defeated us. It was a humiliating defeat, one that should have sent the entire club into red alert. We bounced back with a win over Galatasaray in the final match of the group stage. Frankly, it was a consolation match at best, as we were guaranteed a spot in the next round and it would have taken a 6 goal route with a Dortmund draw to top the group and as poor as our form has been, that probably wasn’t going to happen.
Taking on Stoke in Stoke, was always going to be rough. Arsenal seems to struggle there and the Orcs filling the Britannia Stadium love it. They grunt, growl and roar any time we make a clear, honest play and cheer uncontrollably when one of their Uruks, namely their chieftains Shawcross and Crouch, maniacally tackle one of our players, often resulting in an injury. They have the audacity to back one of their own when he tears through Aaron Ramsey’s leg like a cleaver through a cow’s back, and think it was Ramsey’s fault! Repeatedly, we go to Stoke and fight hard to get a result of any kind, but we have a mental block. The rugby tactics and lowbrow fans always get the better of us.
Arsene Wenger has been criticized of struggling against Jose Mourinho and more recently, teams in the top four but to me the struggle against this pack of wild maniacs is more infuriating. Lose to a top four side and they were the better team, but lose to Stoke and their lack of footballing tactics and violent ways got the better of us. Why can’t we get over it? We know that they will play that way. They play long balls to Crouch and attempt to injure any of us that touch the ball. They would tackle an infant in a stroller if he was holding a pacifier shaped like a football. So it should be no surprise to see them play that way again. Yet Wenger seems perplexed that it happens, EVERY TIME! He had the gall to say that there were positives after the match. What positives could there possibly be? We were down 3-0 at halftime! TO STOKE CITY! This is an embarrassment to the club and to us fans. Only one of their goals was a legitimately decent goal. Sure we came back to make it 3-2 but once Chambers was sent off, the damage was done. Wenger got it wrong again, but this time the loss was in the team sheet and the tactics. We can play the ref blame game all we want, and the ref was bad but Wenger is having a hard time adjusting his team to the challenges on match day.
Wenger put us in this position. The lack of defensive signings over the summer has bitten us. We had six healthy defenders at the start of the season, 2 CB, 2 LB and 2 RB, we have had a combination of 2-3 of them injured at any given time, including long term injuries to Koscielny and Debuchy. This has forced us to play Monreal out of position and give starts to Chambers and Bellerin who are still raw. Don’t get me wrong, I think highly of both of them but they are inexperienced. We have until January to hold on without proper backup in the back. I have no idea what to expect when the January transfer window opens but to be honest, we probably wont get a defender or a defensive mid. Wenger will play the “I trust my players to do their jobs when asked” card even though they are completely knackered.
This lack of squad rotation also causes us to drop points. Our lack of signings in the back means there isn’t much we can do there, but in midfield and attack we have quite a few healthy players. It is bewildering to see players like Joel Campbell and Lukas Podolski sitting on the bench game after game while Alexis is dragging because he is carrying the weight of 25 players and millions of fans on his back. Cazorla fluctuates in form as drastically as the rest of the club and Ramsey over-thinks every pass. Has Rosicky even started a match? I do not understand what is keeping so many players rotting on the bench while the players struggling for form and energy are forced to play every minute. Wenger needs to start rotating and soon. A little squad rotation would do the team some good. At Galatasaray, Wenger did rotate his players and not only did we win, but the majority of our starters got some much needed rest.
The starting lineup saw Debuchy back as well as starts for Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo. Podolski and Ramsey each got a brace of goals during our 4-1 win. Everyone knows how much of a Podolski fan I am so I won’t fill this blog with superlatives. The real praise needs to go to Ramsey’s strike. If you have not seen it, what are you waiting for? The half-volley from 30 yards out seemed like another desperate whack into the nosebleeds, but it was not so. That shot rifled into the top corner so fast and hard, I am surprised the net wasn’t taken into orbit. Not only was he surprised but so was the entire team and everyone watching the match. Easily one of the best goals I have ever seen and it got me thinking of the myriad of goals he scored for us last year (Norwich, Liverpool at home, etc) and how I wish he would keep that form up. The sight of the team all celebrating that goal was awesome and humorous.
Wenger rotated a few players in the second half as we left off the pressure a bit. The young players who got to play in the Champions League did their duty well, but to be fair the match was essentially over and Galatasaray aren’t exactly a powerhouse. It was just nice to have a good win after the Stoke loss. Hopefully, and I know I say this every week, we will get some consistency in our performances. Despite my gripes with this season, I still feel like we have a great group of players that can go far, but we are 2-3 players away from a full enough squad to challenge on all fronts.
Since Wenger actually rested players, I have a good feeling about Newcastle this weekend. The only caveat is they are coming off a good win over Chelsea, hilariously spoiling all the Mourinho-loving media imbeciles’ premature “new-invincibles” party. Watching Mourinho get angry and call the opposition names shows what a spoiled, pedantic brat he really is. All hilarity aside, Newcastle will be up to drop another giant so we need to be on toes and play to our tempo and strengths from kick off.
Come on You Gunners!
Edit: Sorry for all the Lord of the Rings references but I truly feel like Stoke are the orcs from the Tolkien novels. He just new what a classless bunch they are.